RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Perhaps you've seen the International Space Station (ISS) gliding across our night sky and didn't realize what it was. It's the third brightest object in our sky (behind the Sun and the Moon, of course), and is easy to see with the unaided eye. It looks like a bright white unblinking light (kind of like an airplane at cruising altitude) gliding smoothly across the sky. You just have to know where to look and when!
To help engage Earthlings with our out-of-this-world human home, NASA now offers free "Spot the Station" email and phone alerts for your location.
NASA's Spot the Station free service will send you an email or text message several hours before the space station will pass over your location. That gives you time to plan to look outside (on clear nights) and look for the ISS in orbit more than 200 miles above Earth's surface.
CLICK HERE to sign up for the free Spot the Station updates via email or text message.
How do we know these viewing times? Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX calculates these sighting moments for 4,600 locations across the globe, updating them several times a week. When you select a location, pick one closest to yours for the most accurate viewing window.
But you might not want to be awakened for every single fly over, so you can select to only be alerted for the time of day or night in which you are interested. In addition, NASA will only message you the "good" sightings. A good sighting is when the ISS appears from your location to be at least 40 degrees or higher above the horizon (so that trees don't block your viewing), and also be of a long enough duration to be worthwhile.
You can expect to receive alerts from as much as once or twice a week to as little as once or twice a month. The frequency of viewing at your location depends on the orbiting laboratory's route.